Praying the Bible
This month’s book review is for the book “Praying the Bible” by Donald Whitney
What is the book about?
All Christians know they should pray, but sometimes it's hard to know how - especially if the minutes start to drag, and our minds start to wander. Offering listeners hope, encouragement, and the practical advice they're looking for, this concise book by Professor Donald Whitney outlines a simple, time-tested method that can help transform our prayer lives: praying the words of the Bible. Praying the Bible shows listeners how to pray through portions of scripture one line at a time, helping us stay focused by allowing God's word itself to direct our thoughts and words. Simple yet profound, this resource will prove invaluable to all Christians as they seek to commune with their Heavenly Father in prayer each and every day.
How did the book cause reflection on God’s commandments?
Promotes God as the only God
As the book is focused on prayer to God and enriching our relationship with the Lord through communication with His word as that foundation.
“Prayers without variety is a prayer without meaning and can lead to vain repetition”, which Jesus warns us against in Matthew 6:7. The author says praying about the same things isn’t the problem - it’s saying the same thing, about what you are praying for that’s the problem.
What connection did the subject matter have with Christian standards?
Scripture alone (the Bible is our only authority)
Praying through scripture is speaking to the Lord with His own Words.
Recognition of the body as the temple of God (avoidance of addictions)
Sealed with Holy Spirt as children of God (Ephesians 1:13, 1 Corinthians 6:19) and gives us a thirst to pray. However the author says that our method of prayer may induce boredom in our prayer lives.
What examples of prayer do we have in the Bible?
Jesus’ prayer to the Father as an example for the disciples (Matthew 6:5-13)
"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Jesus prayer in the garden before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:3639)
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
Nehemiah’s prayer in reaction to the plight of the captive of Jerusalem and the collapse of the wall in Jerusalem: Praise based on God’s character, persistent prayer (day and night in verse 6- fasting), confession of sins, remembering God’s promises (verse 8), humility. Nehemiah 1:5-10
5 And I said: "I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 6 please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 9 but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.' 10 Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."
Hezekiah’s Prayer for Deliverance from the King of Assyria (2 Kings 19:14-19)
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: "O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands--wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone."
Hannah’s prayer of praise after the blessing of her son, Samuel: Rejoices in the might of the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:1-10
1 And Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. 2 "No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. 3 "Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the Lord is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed. 4 "The bows of the mighty men are broken, And those who stumbled are girded with strength. 5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, And she who has many children has become feeble. 6 "The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. 8 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, And He has set the world upon them. 9 He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness. "For by strength no man shall prevail. 10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed."
How did the book impact my faith?
I listened to this book 4-5 years ago and started praying the Psalms, and at some point I stopped, then I was prompted to pray my daily Bible verse and that has been a wonderful experience because those verses have mirrored things going on in my life and at times the lives of others when I have sent verses to them. I pray the verse and add things about myself or others that are related to the verse/s. So my prayers are different each time, as a new verse comes each day. Once in a while I get a Psalm in my daily verse and then I will pray through it.
Did the book leave me with questions or further reflection?
Psalms of the Day Method: Should prayer be this structured? I understand the goal: to practically teach people how to pray, however, there is a balance between inspiring people to pray and encouraging prayer based on verses chosen by math calculations.
As far as I can remember, there was no mention of going to God and praying about a stale prayer life. We can pray about how we pray, as Philippians 4:6 says 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Famous Men of Prayer
The author mentions the most famous man of prayer in history and the Prince of preachers, men of recent centuries - these men were mentioned alongside Jesus as examples of great men of prayer. I’m very cautious lifting men up with these claims, as our only role model is Jesus Christ and the Bible gives us lesser examples of great men of prayer, like Moses, David, Daniel, Hezekiah, etc.
The exercise of praying a Psalm for 7 minutes. Pray is so intimate - in my experience, we are called or go to God in prayer for a reason. To go to God in prayer for the sake of an exercise, seemed superficial and lacked humility. Each time I go to the Lord, I am calling upon him based on a prayer request from someone or a need in my heart, not because someone tells me to do an exercise in prayer. It would have been different if there was a prayer before the exercise, asking the Lord to help us with our prayer lives and thanking Him that we can come before Him in this way. The author insists that the exercise be done, otherwise the listener will quickly forget the teachings of his book. He revisits the question, “Did you do it?” and implies there will be no gain if the listener fails to do the exercise. I do not remember if I did the exercise the first time I read the book, but I didn’t do the exercise this time around. I find myself asking, “Where is the Holy Spirit in all of this?” I think it would have been more beneficial for someone with a stale prayer life to use the 7 minutes to talk to the Lord about why they find it difficult or boring to pray. I also think - why 7 minutes? Length of time with prayer should not matter. It makes me think of quality over quantity. Some prayers are longer than others. Jesus said in Matthew 6:7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they were be heard for their many words.” This makes me think of the prayer life of Jesus - everything from the short model prayer He gave us that is recorded in the gospels (Matthew 6:9-13Luke 11:1-4), to the all night prayer sessions He had, like the one in Luke 6:12.
The author mentions the trinity, several times - but the idea of the trinity is not found in the Bible.
Towards the end of the book, he reiterates the best way to pray, but I don’t think we have the authority to say what the best way is, as prayer can be Spirit filled. Romans 8:26-27 says: 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
I read this book for the first time back in January 2018. My review was: Loved it! It has given my prayer life a richer content and connection to God.”
After listening to it again, four years later, I found it helpful but rigid regarding some of the methods of establishing a rich prayer life, for example, the Psalm of the Day method and 7 minute prayer exercise. The author has a lot more to say about prayer and the Christian life. The book is only a two hour audio, yet a lot of thoughts are packed into it. Some Bible-based and some, like the doctrine of the trinity, not.
However the main objective of the book is to encourage people to pray using the Bible, as Jesus taught us, and that inspired me to pray using the Bible and I continue to do so.
Thank you for reading this review. Until next time - peace be with you.
I listened to the book via www.audible.com
NB! The link I list for the book review is not an endorsement of the publisher, bookshop, book club, etc.
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